Game Changer

ID Plays Major Role in Adaptive Sports

Jun 9 2021 - 12:50pm

More than two dozen industrial design students in Iowa State University's College of Design are teaming up with a recreational facility in Urbandale, IA that serves people with special needs—to design adaptive sports equipment. Several of the Iowa State students also are going the extra mile to volunteer at Courage League to better understand the athletes.

The assistive sports equipment ranges from multi-purpose bowling pins that give auditory feedback—to a universal guard attachment that allows athletes to play power soccer from their wheelchairs. 22 designs are being carried through to prototypes

Courage League Program Director Molly Wuebker finds that design matters. "It was very important to us that we were able to keep the aesthetic integrity of the sport intact,” she says, adding that kids want and deserve equipment that has a traditional look. Wuebker says the collaboration between Iowa State and Courage League is breaking down barriers and providing more opportunities for the special needs population. "It has been a game changer for our program and participants, both literally and figuratively."

“That’s the model we want to see going forward," says Associate Professor David Ringholz, IDSA, chair of the university’s industrial design program and faculty advisor to the IDSA Student Chapter. "Our students will generate a product and Courage League will develop it. We're doing their R&D, and they're doing the production."

Mirna Garza-Gonzalez, a lecturer in industrial design at Iowa State, finds that learning how to design with empathy for specialized populations is an extra asset for the students, while industrial design student and Courage League volunteer Ian Baker says the project opened his eyes. “I've realized how inclusive design doesn't just benefit specific populations. It benefits us all."

Read more and watch a video about the project.